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Update From COP17 for Local Governments

by Don Knapp Nov 29, 2011

COP17 image1

The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) got under way on Monday in Durban, South Africa, with the hope of moving closer to a global climate agreement. About 12,000 delegates are in attendance, including 200 from local government and municipal associations, including ICLEI.

ICLEI, as at previous COPs, is working to ensure that local and subnational governments are appropriately engaged and empowered in the design and implementation of the global climate agreement. In Durban, we are following up on our hard-won success at COP16 in Cancun, where for the first time local governments were recognized by the UNFCCC as official "government stakeholders" with a seat at the table for negotiations.

Ongoing updates from COP17 can be found on ICLEI's Climate Roadmap website.

Below is an overview of the key points that ICLEI is advocating for at COP17 (text pulled from ICLEI's Day 1 Daily Briefing from COP17).

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Green Strategies for Controlling Stormwater and Combined Sewer Overflows

by Don Knapp Nov 21, 2011

Saving Car From Flood

NRDC's new Rooftops to Rivers II report is worth a read for local government staff. From NRDC's website:

NRDC rooftops to rivers report thumbNRDC's Rooftops to Rivers II provides case studies for 14 geographically diverse cities that are all leaders in employing green infrastructure solutions to address stormwater challenges -- simultaneously finding beneficial uses for stormwater, reducing pollution, saving money, and beautifying cityscapes. These cities have recognized that stormwater, once viewed as a costly nuisance, can be transformed into a community resource. These cities have determined that green infrastructure is a more cost effective approach than investing in "gray," or conventional, infrastructure, such as underground storage systems and pipes. At the same time, each dollar of investment in green infrastructure delivers other benefits that conventional infrastructure cannot, including more flood resilience and, where needed, augmented local water supply.

Blue yellow arrow icon small View the Report

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Report: Extreme Weather Requires New Level of Preparedness

by Don Knapp Nov 21, 2011

Atlanta heat map (credit: NASA)

Credit: NASA

Extreme weather events are on the rise, and we can expect even more in the future, especially heat waves and heavy precipitation. A new summary report released last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses how climate change affects a range of extreme weather events. The takeaway: Better planning and adaptation efforts are essential for all levels of government, especially local governments.

This message is underscored by the fact that in 2011 the United States experienced a record 14 weather-related disasters, each causing at least a billion dollars in damage. Many smaller disasters affected communities as well.

The IPCC's summary report offers recommendations for policymakers. The complete document, Special Report for Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), will be released in early 2012.

Blue yellow arrow icon small Read the Summary for Policymakers

Blue yellow arrow icon small Read World Wildlife Fund's excellent overview

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Davie, Florida, Leads on Urban Forestry and Sustainable Landscaping

by Don Knapp Nov 17, 2011

Davie Florida (credit: bfraz via flickr)

Green open space in Davie, FL. Photo credit: bfraz via flickr

The Town of Davie, FL, is committed to expanding its community green spaces and protecting natural habitats.

About Davie: The Town is located in Broward County in South Florida, and has 90,000 residents. Davie contains lush, rural landscapes and numerous parks, where equestrian activities  are popular.

Through a range of sustainable practices, Davie is making its landscapes greener, creating a healthier community overall.


Sustainable Landscaping

  • The Town Council adopted requirements for “Florida-Friendly” landscaping practices and irrigation systems, which promote water conservation and water quality improvement. 

The Town's Landscape Department:

  • Promotes native plantings using Florida-Friendly landscaping principles
  • Gave away 750 low-maintenance plants to Town residents during the 2011 Orange Blossom Festival
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San Antonio Wins Award for Its Energy Leadership

by Don Knapp Nov 17, 2011

San Antonio award Laurence

Laurence Doxsey (center), Director of San Antonio’s Office of Environmental Policy, accepts the City's award at the CATEE 2011 Conference. Photo credit: Gali Zilbershtein

Congratulations to the City of San Antonio for winning the Outstanding Government Organization Award at last week's Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency (CATEE) Conference in Dallas.

Since adopting its Mission Verde Sustainability Plan, unveiled by Mayor Julian Castro in 2009 to coordinate efforts toward developing a green economy, San Antonio has achieved great things in energy efficiency and clean energy.

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Bellevue Carries a Tune About Green Business

by Don Knapp Nov 16, 2011

Bellevue video screen grab

Click this image to visit the YouTube page with Bellevue's video.

The City of Bellevue, WA, is going the extra mile to make a splash with its newly launched Eastside Green Business Challenge program. The City recruited a local band, Million Dollar Nile, to pen a song pro bono about the Challenge competition. Check out the hummable tune and accompanying YouTube video -- a creative way to spread the word about the program and convey what it's all about. A song that sticks in your head is brilliant branding for a competition that aims to be fun and friendly, in which participants compete to save the most energy, money, and natural resources.

Two weeks ago, the City launched the program at a ceremony headlined by Hunter Lovins, an author and renowned "green business icon." Read more about it here.

Bellevue is the latest local government to launch a version of ICLEI's Green Business Challenge Program, and we are proud to have helped them get their program off the ground.

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Climate Communication for Local Governments: Five New Guidelines

by Don Knapp with Justus Stewart and Patrick Robbins Nov 08, 2011

Ames Iowa flood (credit: FEMA)

Photo credit: FEMA

Five guidelines to help city and county staff and elected officials message climate solutions, science, and local impacts


communications guide thumbThere’s a time and a place to talk about climate change. The place probably isn’t the Thanksgiving table with your uncles and in-laws, or anywhere that discussion could devolve into unfriendly debate. Let’s face it: As a topic, climate change is unpopular, polarizing, complex—and an unavoidable part of the national conversation.

The local one, too. Without constructive climate communication, local governments’ plans and initiatives would never get off the ground. And since we’ve got so much ground to cover, now is the time to take stock of the most effective communications approaches. What can we learn from the latest psychological and communications research, and the on-the-ground experience of municipal staff? A heck of a lot.

Good Communication Builds Relationships

“For local governments, climate communication should be thought of as a way to build relationships, not to win a debate or convince people to think the same way,” says Brian Holland, ICLEI USA’s Climate Programs Director. “You build relationships when you understand your audience and speak to their values and priorities.”

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Federal Climate Adaptation Progress to Support Local Communities

by Don Knapp Nov 07, 2011

South Florida Broward County flooding (credit: broward county)

On Oct. 28 the White House Council on Environmental Quality released its Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The new report "outlines the Federal Government's progress in expanding and strengthening the Nation's capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to extreme events and other climate change impacts."

federal adaptation progress report thumbICLEI highly recommends that its local government members read this full report. It devotes an entire section to federal adaptation efforts at the community level, and an extensive update on how federal agencies are working to share climate change data with other levels of government. Here are the high points relevant to local governments (text cut and pasted from the report):

As Local Efforts Expand, Need for Information Grows

  • A 2011 U.S. Conference of Mayors survey of 396 mayors from all 50 states found that over 30 percent are already taking climate impacts into account within their capital planning and improvement programs.
  • At federal workshops and listening sessions, community stakeholders overwhelmingly, said they need reliable and accessible information to evaluate their vulnerabilities to climate change and to understand the costs and benefits of taking action to reduce local risks.

    (Read the report for much more detail on how the federal government is working to improve accessibility and coordination of science to support decision making for all levels of government.)


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City of Lewes First to Merge Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Planning

by Don Knapp Nov 07, 2011

Lewes Delaware (credit: lee cannon via flickr)

Lewes, Delaware. Photo credit: Lee Cannon via Flickr

In August 2011, the City of Lewes, Delaware, approved the first-ever community action plan that combines hazard mitigation and climate adaptation planning processes. The City of Lewes Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Action Plan was developed with support from ICLEI USA and Delaware Sea Grant, working with city officials, community members, and state, regional, and federal representatives.

Lewes Plan thumb“The result is the city has a win-win, no-regrets strategy that will prepare them for their future flood risk no matter what the cause,” says Wendy Carey, coastal processes and coastal hazards specialist with Delaware Sea Grant College Program’s Marine Advisory Service, in an article in NOAA's Coastal Services newsletter. Lewes is a coastal community in Delaware that is highly vulnerable to coastal storms, flooding, and high winds.

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